Teacher Diaries: Ms. Holly – The Poem I Love

The poem I love is an interesting one for students to read if they are interested in Greek mythology. To understand this poem, they will first have to know the background story of sirens, which were dangerous mythical creatures that would lure sailors by singing to them.

This is a very cleverly written poem because it appears to be from the perspective of a siren, explaining how she finds her work tedious and claiming she would reveal the secret of the siren song. However, as the readers continue, they realise, from the last verse, that the poem is the ‘siren song’ itself and the readers have been ‘lured’ like the sailors.

The lines of this free-versed poem end in the middle of a sentence, slowly and haltingly leading the readers to continue reading. This poetic technique matches the theme of this poem, which is to seduce the readers to go on. The secret of the siren song is never revealed in the poem, but the readers can already guess how it works – the suspense is irresistible.

Siren Song
By Margaret Atwood

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember.

Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?

I don’t enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical

with these two feathery maniacs,
I don’t enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.

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